sharing in governance of extractive industries

(image: Geddes Quadrangle, Dundee Uni, in the winter snow)

For me, one of the best things about both GOXI and the Environmental Governance and Conflict Prevention Community of Practice (CoP), is that it bridges a gap between (A) local conversations on extractives; and (B) global discussions on that topic. In fact, that gap can often seem like a chasm.

I live in the city of Dundee in Scotland and I’m an alumnus of the city’s main university, the University of Dundee. Sometimes when you are in this city it seems like everyone you are talking to is also from Dundee, or thereabouts. No doubt the same is true for residents of cities across the world. But I make the point to people here about the need to reach out to wider audiences, including globally. After all, we have plenty of experiences to share with the outside world.

The North Sea (although hardly Dundee..) is home to the “Brent Crude” oil benchmark, and UK producers are now required to work collaboratively to maximise economic extraction from what is an increasingly mature basin – regulators even have the power to sit in on meetings between firms to ensure that this happens. Further to an official consultation, 99% of Scots said that they were opposed to fracking, the Scottish Government’s response was a ban on the technology. Scottish coal mining is a central part of the recent history and collective memory of very many Scots communities, but is largely no more.

Should the State play a guiding role in a nation’s upstream petroleum sector? Should fracking be allowed? Can and should coal mining be “saved” as an industry? These are all live issues globally, and we must have that global conversation, not just local or national ones.

Again, no doubt the same experience is played out around the world, for example by people from the coal-mining town of Dundee in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Through this blogpost, I’d like to share with fellow GOXIans and members of this CoP a recent conversation I had with Kurt Mills, Professor of International Relations & Human Rights at my hometown University of Dundee. Professor Mills is the Editor of the journal Global Governance, and the Principal Investigator of the Dundee Africa Research Network (DARN). Professor Mills is widely published on domestic and cross-border conflict issues, ethics, and much more.

In our conversation, we discussed extractives and conflict prevention, deterrence and criminal proceedings around the world, and in line with his leadership role at DARN (a network that I am a member of), with a particular focus on Africa, including Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Liberia. Beyond Africa, Syria is also considered.

Here are some highlights from our discussion, starting with the international principal and global political commitment of a Responsibility to Protect (R2P) populations, endorsed and adopted by United Nations (UN) member States in 2005.

Daniel Gilbert (DG):

“Is the R2P principle genuinely prioritized in international conflict resolution and prevention where access to valuable mineral resources are also at stake?”

 Professor Kurt Mills (KM):
“The bigger question is whether R2P is actually prioritized at all.  To a very large extent, no it is not.  It is talked about periodically, and there is certainly a very large academic industry on the R2P but if you look at it in practice and in the way that the international community and the especially the UN Security Council draws upon the Responsibility to Protect it is relatively minimal.”




“Because the States who are meant to be implementing the Responsibility to Protect don’t really have an interest in doing so… an economic interest, a political interest a military interest… again, we see this in Darfur.  Darfur was perhaps the test case for responsibility to protect, and I think it’s a test case that failed – really quite substantially.

Nobody had an interest in it. I mean, China has an interest in supporting the Sudanese government, because it wanted access to the oil, Russia too I suppose, the US in particular and other Western countries had an interest in not pushing Sudan too hard because they wanted the North/ South conflict to be resolved, and nobody (external) wanted to use any military resources, nobody wanted to challenge the government.”

I also raised a longstanding hot topic, as follows:


“We have this debate within natural resources as to whether having mineral and petroleum resources is a ‘curse’ or a benefit to countries. Do you see it as a curse or as a benefit?”

KM: “A lot of it is down to governance.  Botswana.. is a positive case of where the resources have been of benefit to the country, and then you have countries like Angola where for example the money has been siphoned off and hasn’t really been of benefit to the vast majority.”

Moreover, Professor Mills noted that the dynamics behind any manifestation of such a “Curse”, may be a complex combination of domestic and international forces, for example,

“DRC, and that’s obviously ongoing, but back in the early stages of the conflict in say the mid to late 1990s you have about twelve different countries involved in the region and they weren’t there just because they wanted to support DRC or one of the other parties they were there to get access to the natural resources.”

A longer version of this interview is available online on the homepage of the Dundee Africa Research Network.

I would welcome any comments you may have on the above and regarding the full text interview. 

Lastly, some (related) questions: do you have the same sort of conversations on mining/ petroleum topics (including in the specific context of this CoP) locally as you do with people in different parts of your own country, and likewise globally?  Or are those conversations significantly different?  Perhaps the issue of Local Content is often cited but rarely sighted your home region, and rarely even cited when you discuss petroleum (say) issues with colleagues internationally?  Or perhaps I have got that completely wrong.  Please share your experience here, through this discussion. Many thanks.

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